Manufacturer cuts factory audit times from 3 weeks to 3 minutes with digital transformation

Posted on 4 Jan 2024 by The Manufacturer

A manufacturer of insulated building panels has reduced the amount of time taken to perform a factory audit from three weeks to just three minutes by implementing a new business wide Internet of Things (IoT) system.

Flintshire-based Kingspan Insulated Panels (KIP), which is part of the larger Kingspan Group, worked with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and AWS Partner Storm Reply to bring intelligence to its network of factories.

Prior to the project, Kingspan’s 50 global factories all had individual control and data collection systems leading to a lack of visibility and time-consuming, manual processing to create audits and gain insight into efficiency. Using AWS IoT SiteWise and AWS IoT Core, the two companies created a replicable ‘IoT in a box’ that is ready to ship to any production facility in the world or to help bring new sites online quickly.

Unifying disparate data and control systems

KIP was wrestling with an unsustainable catalog of vendors providing logic control systems and data. Each implementation was different and dependent on linking back to one UK data center. Running and managing such a diverse and disparate system was a big challenge requiring both operational technology skills and database administration skills to extract even basic data from systems. This led to production downtime, rejected products, and a lack of clear insight needed to address these issues.

The company wanted to deploy a new templated Internet of Things (IoT) system for each site to generate standardized data and values that could be analyzed by central systems more easily and meaningfully. KIP was already working with another cloud vendor but faced challenges moving a 3D design application to its platform. Despite working with six partners over 50 days the application was still not fully functioning.

Deploying an AWS IoT SiteWise solution across multiple sites

As its internal team was small, KIP decided to turn to AWS Partner Storm Reply and AWS to help with the global rollout. Together they created an ‘IoT in a box’ solution that could be easily deployed into new or existing factories.

Storm Reply used AWS IoT SiteWise Edge to collect, organize, process, and monitor equipment data on-premises. The application was up and running on AWS in just 3 days, which gave KIP the confidence that AWS was the right cloud partner. “We could quickly see that Storm Reply understood the challenges of our business, and that AWS had the Industrial IoT services that we needed,” says John Neary, global manufacturing director at Kingspan. “They also have the knowledge of AWS services and processes to get us up and running quickly.”

Kingspan uses AWS IoT SiteWise to collect, manage, and visualize data from all its IoT devices without needing to develop any additional software. This is run as a managed service and provides automated data visualizations, remote equipment monitoring, and easy integration with other applications. Kingspan is already ingesting 1.5 TB of data per month and will be able to easily scale as the rollout to other factories continues.

Running applications at scale at the edge

IoT solutions need to be robust to function properly on the factory floor and be ready to cope with unstable power and networking infrastructure. To address this, Storm Reply deployed AWS IoT SiteWise Edge on the factory floor, which makes it easy to collect, organize, process, and monitor data on-premises. It runs on ruggedized PCs that are capable of operating without power or network connectivity for 7 days and then send data reports when power and data are restored.

AWS IoT SiteWise Edge even allows basic reports to be created and consumed at the edge if connectivity is lost. “People used to worry that IoT required reliable and fast wireless networks, but this is not always possible in rough manufacturing environments,” says Neary. “But Storm Reply helped us build applications that really do work at scale in an industrial environment.”

Because of the different data formats in use, audits previously took 2–3 weeks to complete per factory and involved many manual tasks. By building on AWS, audit times have been cut to just 3 minutes. For this it uses Amazon Managed Grafana, integrated with AWS IoT SiteWise meaning KIP can query, visualize, alert, and understand different metrics no matter where they are stored. Audit data is either automatically compiled in nearreal time or available with a few clicks of the Amazon Managed Grafana dashboard.

Improving quality control without increasing operating costs

Using AWS, KIP now has a tighter grip on quality control and can see that panel specifications are being followed precisely in every factory. It can also address concerns raised by customers more quickly or even spot them preemptively. This will reduce customer returns and warranty costs, and improve individual factory efficiency and profitability. Crucially, Storm Reply provided a solution that does all this without adding to management overheads or manual tasks by using AWS IoT Core, which lets customers connect billions of IoT devices and route trillions of messages to AWS services without provisioning or managing servers.

The solution also gives KIP’s IT team the ability to ingest and interrogate accurate information from factories wherever they are located. This will allow predictive maintenance and proactive responses to quality issues and help drive Kingspan Group’s environment and sustainability ambitions. The IoT solution will provide KIP with the necessary tools to use data to gain knowledge and improve decision making, reduce environmental impact, and highlight best practices. This broader business intelligence comes from Amazon QuickSight, which can satisfy varying analytics needs from the same data pool through modern interactive dashboards, paginated reports, embedded analytics, and natural language queries.

Getting new factories up and running fast

The rollout continues with KIP taking full control of timescales to match other business considerations. This IoT project has proved so successful that Storm Reply is sharing the success and possibilities with other parts of the group.

Today, KIP production lines are all built in one central factory, as a modular solution, then broken down and sent to the location required. “Thanks to our work with Storm Reply and AWS, we now have ‘IoT in a box’ to send alongside the physical production line,” says Neary. “That means new factories can be up and running and online faster than ever before.”

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